By Dacia Moore, Licensed Professional Counselor
I am reading a book this summer entitled Toxic Relationships by Dr. Clinton W. McLemore. It is an in- depth look at styles of communication and how some patterns of interaction can be more hurtful then helpful. According to the author, “toxic relationships leave you feeling gray inside and sometimes sick. They may prompt you to get down on yourself or become angry at the world.”
So many of our program participants are dealing with toxic relationships. Here at Community LINC, we try to show them a different way of interacting with others and with the world. And to me, that is one of the major challenges that we address in the mental wellness health department. We help our residents become less “toxic” and learn to identify a potentially toxic relationship early on. We even discuss how a family member or a spouse can be toxic and how to manage that relationship.
One example is a client that I am working with in the aftercare program. Ms. C appears to be married to a toxic man. When she doesn’t do as he commands or drop everything and give him her full attention, he ridicules her, tells her she is a bad wife and a terrible Christian. He calls out her name and embarrasses her in front of her children. As a result, Ms. C gets so upset and stressed out that she goes to work late, if at all, and has become physically ill on more than one occasion.
As the Aftercare Therapist, my job is to help her, and all of our aftercare clients, to think more rationally so that they don’t make an emotional decision that leads them back down the path to homelessness. When you are in a toxic relationship like Ms. C that is a real possibility. Ms. C and I have a good relationship and she now calls me right after an incident so I can help her calm down, think clearly and make good decisions for her future. She is not ready to leave this toxic relationship yet, so, I will help her navigate through her difficulties until (if ever) she is.
Toxic relationships are everywhere and our residents seem to struggle with them more often than most. That is why the mental wellness health and aftercare components of our program are so important. They help our clients identify when they are getting close to a toxic situation, and teach them tools to use for self-calming and self-care so they can continue their upward progress towards permanent housing and a good life.
Ms. C is doing better now, but still needs help (don’t we all!). Thank goodness for a community of caring people who work with our clients at each step of our program to show them a different way of doing things that is not TOXIC!!!